CHESHIRE, Conn. — One day after what would have been Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 94th birthday, hundreds took to the streets of Cheshire Monday with kids leading the way. The second annual Children’s March stepped off from St. Peter’s Church.
An effort to pass the torch from the civil rights legend to the next generation. The event—a partnership with the state Commission on Human Rights and Opportunity—is an effort to encourage children to reimagine what social justice means to them. That’s precisely what Doolittle School fourth grader Jeremy Works showed up to do.
“Even though we have different skin colors and different tones of skin colors, we all are the same as anybody,” said Works, 9. “It gets us as kids to know that we can speak up for ourselves and know that we’re a part of things too instead of just feeling like if adults can do this then why can we.”
It’s Connecticut’s only children-led event on this national holiday. Born out of the pandemic and social justice marches of 2020. Kids defining what social justice means to them in a post George Floyd America.
“We want to actually pass on the torch of the civil rights movement to them because they have so much to contribute,” said Cheryl Sharp, Executive Director, Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunity. “What they feel about equality, what they feel about fairness, about our society and how we can come together.”
Leaders from across Connecticut joined marchers.
“Social Justice is smiling at someone that you don’t understand. It is staying hello at the grocery store. It is picking up garbage on the sidewalk and putting it in the trash,” said Congresswoman Jahana Hayes, who represents Cheshire in Connecticut’s 5th Congressional District.
Earlier this month, Connecticut suddenly lost one of its own leaders, State Rep. Quintin ‘Q’ Williams and it was hard for Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz to not draw some parallels. Williams was the first Black person to represent Middletown in the legislature, pushing issues that were also dear to Dr. King.
“Who died at the same age, 39, as MLK and both of them were such change makers,” Bysiewicz said. “Voting rights and more affordable and equity in healthcare are things that Dr. King thought were really important.”
Before he was a reverend or a doctor and before he shared his dream with the world, Martin Luther King Jr. was a teenage worker in Connecticut’s tobacco fields.
State leaders seizing on King Day as an opportunity to reflect on Connecticut’s role in King’s legacy.
“When Martin Luther King was a student, he came to Connecticut to pick tobacco,” said Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz.
In Connecticut, Dr. King shared with his family via letters, his experience of a culture less segregated than the south. Bysiewicz says it inspired his work in the south. Adding, “Black people could go to theatres, could go to churches with white people, could eat at restaurants and that inspired him and he credits Connecticut as being the place that moved him in the direction of becoming a pastor.”
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